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Body Cams for LAPD…SCOTUS Decision on Evidence From Illegal Police Stops…and Bills

June 23rd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

On Wednesday, the LA City Council approved a nearly $60 million plan to equip 7,000 Los Angeles police officers with body-worn cameras.

The city will enter into a five-year agreement with Taser International Inc. to the tune of $31.2 million in equipment (including 4,400 cameras) and services. Another $23.7 million will go to Sprint for phones and data, and 4.3 million will be earmarked for what the Public Safety Committee Report designates as “infrastructure.” (The LAPD will also use a $1 million grant from the US Department of Justice, $3.1 million in unspent fiscal year 2015-2016 program funding, and $7 million from the 2016-2017 adopted budget.)

Once the body cams are implemented, the LAPD will be the largest department in the nation to attach cameras to its officers. About 860 officers are already wearing cameras because of an earlier pilot program.

Four times per year, the LAPD will also be required to report back on the status of camera implementation, along with a cost-benefit analysis.

KPCC’s Frank Stoltze has more on the body cam plan. Here’s a clip:

Originally, L.A. Mayor Garcetti had promised to have cameras on LAPD officers by the end of the year to improve accountability by both police and citizens, and provide evidence in criminal trials. City council members, however, balked at the price tag and approval was delayed six months.

A study commissioned by the council and unveiled Tuesday predicted eventual cost savings from body cameras. Justice and Security Strategies, the consultant commissioned for the report, said LAPD can expect to pay less in litigation costs after body cameras roll out, since they could absolve officers accused of misconduct, and deter use of force by officers.

The plan includes a $31 million contract with Taser International, which will supply the cameras, uploading equipment and storage. The rest of the money will go to things like extra LAPD staff to review and manage the footage.

Garcetti hailed the decision.

“Today’s action by the City Council is an investment in my vision of a Los Angeles Police Department that leads in transparency and accountability — values that protect officers and everyday Angelenos, and that are fundamental to policing in the 21st century,” Garcetti said in a statement. “This is a historic moment for the LAPD, and I am proud of the leadership shown by everyone who played a part in getting us to this day.”


US SUPREMES VOTE TO ALLOW EVIDENCE FOUND AFTER UNLAWFUL STOPS

In a 5-3 decision on Monday, the US Supreme Court ruled that law enforcement officers can use evidence obtained during illegal stops in courts, if the searches were conducted after the officers found out that the defendants had outstanding arrest warrants.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued a scathing dissent, arguing that the ruling would disproportionately impact people of color. “This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong,” she wrote.

In the case, Utah v. Strieff, Salt Lake City narcoticts detective Douglas Fackrell unlawfully stopped Edward Strieff based on an anonymous tip about “narcotics activity.” The check Fackrell ran on Strieff turned up a warrant for a traffic violation. When Fackrell arrested and searched Strieff, he found meth and drug paraphernalia. The justices ruled that the drug evidence does not have to be suppressed, but can be used as evidence in court.

“The officer illegally stopped Strieff and immediately ran a warrant check,” said Sotomayor in her dissent. “The officer’s discovery of a warrant was not some intervening surprise that he could not have anticipated.”

Sotomayor pointed out that according to recent Department of Justice statistics, 16,000 of Ferguson, Missouri’s population of 21,000 had outstanding warrants.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined most of Sotomayor’s dissent, as well as Justice Elena Kagan’s separate dissent.

The New York Times’ Adam Liptak has more on the ruling. Here’s a clip:

The question for the justices was whether the drugs must be suppressed given the unlawful stop or whether they could be used as evidence given the arrest warrant.

“Officer Fackrell was at most negligent,” Justice Thomas wrote, adding that “there is no evidence that Officer Fackrell’s illegal stop reflected flagrantly unlawful police misconduct.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion.

In a dissent that cited W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates, Justice Sotomayor said the court had vastly expanded police power.

“The court today holds that the discovery of a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket will forgive a police officer’s violation of your Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote. “Do not be soothed by the opinion’s technical language: This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification and check it for outstanding traffic warrants — even if you are doing nothing wrong.

“If the officer discovers a warrant for a fine you forgot to pay,” she continued, “courts will now excuse his illegal stop and will admit into evidence anything he happens to find by searching you after arresting you on the warrant.”

Justice Sotomayor added that many people were at risk. Federal and state databases show more than 7.8 million outstanding warrants, she wrote, “the vast majority of which appear to be for minor offenses.”


NOTEWORTHY CRIMINAL JUSTICE-RELATED CALIFORNIA LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

AB 2298, a bill to notify people included on California’s gang database, CalGang, passed out of the Senate Public Safety Committee, and has been re-referred to the Senate Committee on Appropriations. The bill passed through the Assembly earlier this month.

People who admit to law enforcement officers that they are gang members or who have gang-related tattoos are added to the database, but associating with known gang members and wearing clothing that might be gang-related also sends people into the CalGang database.

The bill also gives Californians the right to challenge their inclusion in the database, and removes people from the list who have been free of gang-related convictions for at least three years.

Advocates say the vague criteria often have the effect of penalizing people of color for living in the wrong neighborhood.


KAMALA HARRIS BACKS BILL TO DRASTICALLY LIMIT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT FOR KIDS, AND ANOTHER TO EXPAND VOTING RIGHTS

On Monday California Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her support of a bill that would ensure that eligible inmates with felony convictions keep their right to vote while in jail (but not prison), as well as while under county supervision (but not parole).

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right,” AG Harris said.

And on Tuesday, Harris endorsed a bill to place significant limits on when, why, and for how long California kids can be locked in solitary. The bill, authored by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), would block guards from using isolation as a punishment, for convenience’s sake, or as a way to coerce kids, and would limit “room confinement” to four hours. Confinement would only become an option after other, less restrictive options had been exhausted (except when using those alternatives would put kids or staff in danger).

“Subjecting young people to prolonged periods of isolated confinement is cruel, inhumane and counterproductive to rehabilitation,” Harris said. “This unnecessary and punitive practice undermines the goal of helping this vulnerable young population become healthy and productive members of our society.”

Harris endorsed two other criminal justice reform bills aimed at reducing recidivism. The first, AB 1597, by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey), would allow inmates who haven’t been sentenced yet to participate in rehabilitative programs and earn good time credits toward a future sentence. The inmates’ use of these tools would not be admissible as evidence of their guilt.

The second bill, SB 1157 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would ensure that local detention facilities using video visitation would also allow a number of in-person visits for inmates, as well.

Posted in LAPD | 11 Comments »

CORRECTED: IG Review Reveals LAPD Officers’ Cell Block Checks Violate Policy

June 7th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

When conducting cell block checks at the Los Angeles Police Department-run Metropolitan Detention Center (MCD), LAPD officers acted outside of department policy and state regulations 82.3% of the time, according to an investigation by LAPD Inspector General Alex Bustamante.

MCD, the LAPD’s busiest jail, was assigned approximately 121 detention officers and 51 police officers and processed more than 28,000 inmates. In conducting the review, the IG’s office went through 264 hours of footage from jail cameras, analyzing 198 cell block checks.

During 26 of the non-compliant checks, officers did not inspect the entire floor after entering a cell block. During the other 137 problematic checks, officers did not even go into the cell blocks, and frequently miscounted inmates.

LA Police Commissioner Robert Saltzman said the failure rate is indicative of “systemic failure,” the LA Times reports. Commission President Matt Johnson pointed out that after the IG illuminated these issues, the LAPD “immediately worked with the inspector general to fix them.”

Two weeks ago, the Police Commission reviewed video of a death—caused by suffocation and epilepsy—at the department’s Pacific Jail. The revelation that jail logs listed inaccurate inmate welfare check times when cross-referenced with video of the man’s death, brought on an internal investigation.



CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story mistakenly estimated MCD’s jail population at more than 28,000. We meant to say that MCD processed more than 28,000 inmates in 2015.

Posted in LAPD | 5 Comments »

SFPD Chief Ousted, LAPD Union Sues Over Discipline Practices, Prison Admissions up Nationwide, and Blocking Sunshine in Child Death Records

May 20th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SF MAYOR BOOTS EMBATTLED SFPD CHIEF AFTER FATAL SHOOTING

On Thursday, just a few short hours after San Francisco police officers shot and killed a woman during an arrest, SF Mayor Ed Lee announced the removal of SFPD Chief Greg Suhr.

“The progress we’ve made has been meaningful, but it hasn’t been fast enough—not for me, not for Greg, said Mayor Lee in a statement Thursday. “That’s why I have asked Chief Suhr for his resignation.”

The move follows months of protests over other controversial police shootings along with racist (and homophobic) text messages sent between officers. And then there has been the ongoing feud between Suhr and SF District Attorney George Gascón.

Last week, four out of eleven San Francisco Supervisors called for SF Police Chief Greg Suhr to be fired.

Earlier this month, five San Francisco protesters went on a hunger strike, calling for Suhr’s resignation, and decrying police brutality and the fatal shootings of Mario Woods, Alex Nieto, and other San Francisco residents of color.

Before Thursday’s fatal shooting of a reportedly unarmed 27-year-old black woman, officers were trying to remove from a stolen car, Mayor Lee said he was not planning on firing Suhr.

“I have previously expressed confidence in Chief Suhr because I know he agrees with and understands the need for reform,” Lee said. “Today I have arrived at a different conclusion to the question of how best to move forward.”

Citing the importance of improving trust between the department and community, Lee named 26-year department veteran Toney Chaplin as acting Chief of Police. “He’s established a record of commitment to the City’s diverse communities, serving at Mission and Taraval Stations, in the Gang Task Force, and running the Homicide division,” Lee said. “Toney has most recently helped establish our new Professional Standards and Principled Policing bureau, the arm of the department that focuses on accountability and transparency.”


LAPD UNION SUES DEPARTMENT, CHIEF, AND CITY OVER DISCIPLINE ISSUES

The Los Angeles Police Protective League-–the LAPD rank and file union—has filed a 57-page federal lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the LAPD, and Chief Charlie Beck over the department’s discipline process.

The LAPPL says Chief Beck has had a “corrupt influence” over the three-member discipline panel—the Board of Rights—that handles the more serious discipline cases in which officers may be fired or given a long-term suspension. The police union’s lawsuit accuses Beck of pressuring the board members to find officers guilty.

Chief Beck appeared on KNX 1070, and argued that in over half of the Board of Rights discipline hearings, the panel did not follow his discipline recommendations to fire officers.

“In 26 of those 184 cases, the board found the officers not guilty. And in 67 of them, they found them guilty, but then applied a penalty that’s less than firing,” Beck said. “…If that’s a system that I’m corrupting, then I’m not doing a very good job of it.”

Beck continued, telling KNX he felt the lawsuit was a personal attack.

The lawsuit also calls for the Board of Rights—which is currently comprised of two LAPD officials and one civilian—to change to an all-civilian board. Having two high-ranking officials on the board is a violation of officers’ 14th Amendment right to due process, according to the lawsuit, because the officials “owe their rank to the chief.”

The LA Times’ James Queally and Kate Mather have more on the lawsuit and the issues it raises. Here’s a clip:

The union rejected that it was seeking more favorable outcomes by having more civilians on the boards. Craig Lally, the union president, said the disciplinary statistics raised by Beck were invalid because many officers reach settlements with the board, pleading guilty to lesser misconduct charges in fear that the command officers will fire them at Beck’s behest.

Lally alleged that Beck often will urge Board of Rights members to terminate officers involved in high-profile misconduct cases as a way of placating the public following controversial incidents.

He pointed to the firing of former LAPD Det. Frank Lyga, who was caught on tape making racially charged remarks about a prominent black civil rights attorney and insulting comments about a female LAPD captain. Lyga, who is white, also made insensitive comments about a black officer, Kevin Gaines, whom he fatally shot during a 1997 traffic dispute. Lyga was working in an undercover narcotics detail when he became involved in the argument with Gaines, who was off duty. Neither knew the other was a police officer.

Lally said that Lyga should not have been fired, but argued that his case was one of several in which Beck pushed for a termination in order to gain a public relations victory.

“They just think it’s easier for them to terminate the officer and basically wash their hands of it. … They can say that they’ve done something to fix the problem,” Lally said.

During a news conference, Lally said the union had nearly reached an agreement with the mayor and city attorney’s office this month to alter the disciplinary process and replace uniformed Board of Rights members with civilians.

But the deal fell apart, according to Lally, who said the city attorney’s office suggested the proposed changes might not be legal but did not explain why when asked by the union.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for City Atty. Mike Feuer, said the union was never in negotiations with his office. The union spoke with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, which may have requested advice from the city attorney, Wilcox said.

“While I cannot discuss advice we provided, L.A. voters adopted a clear and legally-sound charter provision prescribing the composition of the LAPD Board of Rights,” Wilcox said in an email. “Of course, policy leaders and voters could amend the charter to alter that provision as early as November.”


STUDY: WHILE STATES’ PRISON POPULATIONS ARE LOWER THAN IN 2010, THERE ARE MORE PEOPLE ACTUALLY GOING TO PRISON

Looking at national incarceration data, criminologist John Pfaff found that if you exclude California—which has significantly reduced its prison population via a federal court order—incarceration rates are actually rising, not declining.

Pfaff found that while sentences have gotten shorter, and the conversation about ending mass incarceration has grown louder, there were actually more people admitted into prison in 2014 than in 2010. Yes, overall prison population numbers dropped by 1.9% during that time frame, but that seems to have overshadowed the fact that more people were sent to prison—an increase of about 6,225 in state prison admissions (or 1.2%), excluding California.

“…Somehow this has completely fallen thru the cracks of our reform discussion. MORE ppl harmed by prison, but LESS visibly so,” Pfaff wrote in a series of tweets about his findings.

Pfaff says the data he compared “only emphasizes again how vitally important regulating prosecutors is, and how shocking it is that NO ONE is doing this.”

Vox’s German Lopez has more on the data. Here’s a clip:

…although fewer people are in prison on any given day, more people are still dealing with the terrible consequences of getting caught up in the justice system, particularly a criminal record that makes it harder to get a job, vote, get housing, and much more.

What’s worse, admissions into prison seem to be going up even as the country goes through a nationwide crime drop — and the research shows that mass incarceration has only played a small role, if any, in the crime drop over the past several years.

The research, drop in crime, and heavy financial and social costs of mass incarceration have pushed political leaders and activists from both parties to call for criminal justice reform. But Pfaff’s analysis shows that it’s not enough, as most reform has only focused on shortening prison sentences. The actors in the criminal justice system — especially prosecutors — also need to start sending fewer people to prison, especially for crimes that don’t warrant such a serious punishment. And if they aren’t willing to do it, maybe lawmakers and the public should take steps to force them to be less aggressive.


YET ANOTHER UNDER-THE-RADAR CALIFORNIA “TRAILER BILL” TO CONCEAL RECORDS WHEN KIDS ARE KILLED

A “trailer bill” attached to the latest California budget proposal would close off public access to records regarding the deaths of children involved in the child welfare system.

The bill, introduced by the California Department of Social Services Director Will Lightbourne would ease deadlines for releasing the child death records and keep social workers’ identities secret in such cases. Information on the family’s history within the child welfare system would be limited, and info provided by witnesses would be removed from the record.

A similar bill was tacked onto the May budget revision last year, too. By attaching the measure as a budget “trailer bill” the measure can skip review in committees and take a short cup to the vote.

According to state officials, the bill would protect the children and adults in the family who were not responsible for the death. Listening to proponents and opponents debate the issue at a hearing, State Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said “This is an item that has…impassioned support and heated opposition. Clearly it is not cooked enough.”

A vote on the bill is expected within the week.

The LA Times’ Garrett Therolf has more on the trailer bill. Here’s a clip:

Since the state implemented the law to increase transparency in 2008, reporters have accessed social worker case notes and other files that revealed inadequacies in the state’s child welfare system, including instances of social workers disregarding policies and allowing children to remain in conditions that proved fatal.

In response to news stories based on those reports, state and county officials implemented a battery of child protection reforms that child welfare advocates credit with reducing the number of children who die because of abuse and neglect.

Earlier this year, Los Angeles County prosecutors filed criminal charges against four social workers who handled the case of 8-year-old Gabriel Fernandez in the months before he was tortured and killed. The case was first reported in The Times based on information that included documents released through the disclosure law.

The social workers union has staged protests against the criminal charges and worked with the administration to craft the bill that would reduce public scrutiny of the case files for child fatalities. The state child welfare directors association also supports the administration’s bill.

The bill currently under consideration would relax deadlines for the release of records and keep the names of social workers secret. It would deny the public access to original case notes, instead providing abbreviated summaries of how the government attempted to protect vulnerable children.

Posted in LAPD | 4 Comments »

LAPD Commission Sez Venice Shooting Was Unjustified, a Bill to Bar For-Profit Immigrant Detention Contracts, and Pt. Two of MacArthur Safety and Justice Challenge

April 14th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD COMMISSION SAYS FATAL SHOOTING OF VENICE HOMELESS MAN VIOLATED LAPD POLICY

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission sided with LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, unanimously deciding that LAPD officer Clifford Proctor’s fatal shooting of an unarmed homeless man, Brendon Glenn, was an unjustified use of deadly force.

Video and other evidence from the May 2015 shooting led police investigators to determine that during an altercation, Proctor shot 29-year-old Glenn twice in the back while Glenn was lying on his stomach on the ground. Proctor said he believed Glenn was trying to take his partner’s gun, but the video evidence did not show Glenn’s hand to be on or near the holster, nor did Proctor’s partner do anything to indicate Glenn was going after his gun, according to the report.

In January, Chief Beck recommended that the LA County District Attorney’s Office charge Proctor in the death of Glenn. It was the first time the chief had recommended criminal charges for a fatal on-duty shooting.

In 2015, in LA, cops shot at civilians 48 times, hitting their target 37 times, and killing 22 total. In a story we crossposted with The Crime Report on Wednesday, Joe Domanick explains and gives context to the LA Police Commission’s revised use-of-force policies, which prioritize “de-escalation” techniques during confrontations to reduce the number of unarmed civilians shot by officers. (Domanick is the West Coast Bureau Chief of the Crime Report and author of Blue: the LAPD and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.)

The LA Times’ Kate Mather has more on the commission’s decision regarding the Venice shooting. Here’s a clip:

The decision capped an 11-month review of Glenn’s death, one of several shootings by LAPD officers last year that fueled criticism of police and how officers use force, particularly against African Americans. Glenn was black, as is Proctor.

The ruling also renewed pressure on L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey to file criminal charges against Proctor. This year, Beck said he had urged Lacey to charge Proctor. It was the first time as chief that Beck has called for charges against one of his officers in a fatal on-duty shooting.

Such prosecutions are rare in L.A. County, where the district attorney’s office hasn’t charged a law enforcement officer in an on-duty shooting in 15 years. An office spokeswoman said the case was still being reviewed.

Within hours of the Police Commission’s decision, local activists again called for Lacey to prosecute Proctor. Najee Ali said the ruling, coupled with Beck’s earlier recommendation, was further proof that the district attorney needed to act.

“This is a true litmus test for Lacey,” he said.

Beck said the commission’s decision “certainly supports” what he told the district attorney.

“I find many times that shootings are out of policy and they don’t reflect criminal charges,” he said. “But that’s not the case in this one.”


CA BILL WOULD MAKE CA CITIES AND COUNTIES DUMP THEIR CONTRACTS WITH FOR-PROFIT IMMIGRANT DETENTION CENTERS

A new California bill sponsored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would block cities and counties from contracting with controversial for-profit prison companies running immigrant detention centers.

“Our state and local governments should not be complicit in this awful practice of profiting off of human suffering,” Lara said. “This critical first-in-the-nation legislation would make the currently unenforceable national immigration standards the law of the land in the golden state.”

Four municipalities, including cash-strapped Adelanto, are contracting with private detention centers and would be affected by the bill.

The small city of Adelanto in San Bernardino County contracts with the scandal-plagued GEO Group, which runs a city jail and the Adelanto Detention Facility, where undocumented immigrants are held. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays Adelanto about $4 million a month to hold around 1,200 immigrants in its detention center. (All-told, ICE holds 62% of its detainees in for-profit detention centers.)

City Councilman John Woodard says a fourth of the city’s income comes from its contracts with the private prison group.

GEO Group, the second largest for-profit prison operator, is often accused of medical neglect and abuse, and at Adelanto and other facilities, enforces lock-up quotas—which trigger financial penalties for empty jail and prison beds.

The bill would also require the immigrant detention facilities to comply with (currently optional) federal standards, and would make it easier for immigrants to take legal action against the private prisons for rights violations.

KPCC’s Leslie Berestein Rojas has more on the bill. Here’s a clip:

With the Adelanto facility’s daily population averaging roughly 1,200 and based on the per-diem rate, ICE pays up to about $4 million a month — and more if the detention center is filled to its 1,940-detainee capacity.

But a bill sponsored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) could put an end to Adelanto’s immigrant detention contract.

“For far too long, our immigration system has promoted profits over people,” Lara told KPCC. “The goal is to prohibit these for-profit companies from profiting off the backs of immigrants.”

Cities like Adelanto depend on detention space revenue. In Adelanto, which nearly went bankrupt last year, City Council member John “Bug” Woodard, a self-described Tea Party Republican, said the GEO contracts are vital to the city’s economy.

“I think a good 25 percent of our income comes from those jailhouses,” Woodard said. “GEO is an important part of this community, and any idiot up in Sacramento that would like us not to do business with them, they’ve got their heads where the sun don’t shine.”


PHASE TWO ANNOUNCED IN MACARTHUR FOUNDATION NATIONAL CHALLENGE TO REFORM JAILS

On Wednesday, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced just under $25 million in funding for 11 jurisdictions nationwide to move to the second round of the foundation’s Safety and Justice Challenge, which aims to “create fairer, more effective local justice systems across the country.”

The MacArthur Foundation whittled down 11 jurisdictions from an original group of 20 selected in 2015 to be mentored by experts as they created plans to reform their local jail systems.

The 11 jurisdictions are:

- Charleston County, SC
- Harris County, TX
- Lucas County, OH
- Milwaukee County, WI
- New Orleans, LA
- New York City, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Pima County, AZ
- Spokane County, WA
- State of Connecticut
- St. Louis County, MO

Los Angeles County was one of original 20 jurisdictions chosen last year, but did not make it to the second round of full mentoring and funding.

Los Angeles and the other eight remaining counties will receive $150,000 grants, as well as technical assistance from experts, to keep up their reform efforts as part of the Safety and Justice Challenge Network.

Posted in LAPD, Uncategorized | 3 Comments »

Can “De-Escalation” Training Help the LAPD Shoot Fewer People? by Joe Domanick

April 13th, 2016 by witnessla


The LAPD’s New Plan to Shoot Fewer People

by Joe Domanick

“Every second counts, and hesitation will kill you,” Jamie McBride told the Los Angeles Police Commission last month.

McBride, a director of the Police Protective League, the Los Angeles Police Department’s rank-and-file union, was testifying at a hearing called to discuss the commission’s proposal to establish new guidelines for officers’ use of force—and he didn’t mince words.

The guidelines, he said “will get officers killed, plain and simple.”

The union director went on to deliver a chilling warning to the five civilians who sit on the commission: “Make no mistake, if an officer is killed as a result …. [his] blood will be on your hands.”

McBride’s comments weren’t unexpected. They reflected the traditional distrust of cops for rules set by outsiders that limit officers’ ability to maneuver in fast-moving and often dangerous situations.

But McBride’s testimony was overshadowed by a just-released report on officer-involved-shootings in Los Angeles during 2015. The commission, which sets Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) policy, could hardly avoid the alarming numbers spelled out in the report: 48 officer-involved shootings, 37 of which hit suspects, 22 of them fatally.

The eleven that hit no one were not warning shots: cops had simply missed their target.

It’s not just LA’s problem of course.

Since 2014, caught-on-camera police killings have fueled a national movement for change, which only seems to grow stronger each month.

But no one listening to McBride that day could have avoided a stark comparison with some other big-city police departments. In Chicago, with a population that’s somewhat smaller than that of LA, and where gun violence seems to set new records each year, officers shot 22 people in 2015, killing eight. In New York, with roughly three times as many police officers and a population about twice as large as LA’s, officers shot 32 people last year, nine fatally.

The proposal by LA’s Police Commission, which so angered McBride, was far from radical. It focused on training cops to avoid the kinds of confrontations that lead to officers shooting unarmed civilians—-many of whom, as critics point out, are stopped on the flimsiest of pretexts.

The strategy is called “de-escalation.”

The force behind LA’s new strategy is commission president Matthew Johnson, who was named to the post only last year. Johnson, whose day job is managing partner of an entertainment law firm of 30 attorneys, is an African-American native of New Jersey. A graduate of New York University Law School, he moved to LA “literally three weeks,” as he put it, after the 1992 LA riots.

In formulating the strategy, Johnson took a lawyer’s careful approach. He first ordered a ten-year review of LAPD shootings. At the same time, the review examined a wide range of training policies that guide officer behavior and ultimately influence tactics, including procedures for handling the mentally ill, as well as alternatives to using deadly-force weapons.

Based on that review, the commission concluded that the department’s previous approach, which called on officers to demonstrate “a reverence for human life,” was far too vague. Instead, it called for a new approach that was not just aimed at minimizing shootings, but would train and reward officers who used de-escalation tactics to avoid them—and hold accountable cops who did not.

In its revised policy guidelines, the commission said that, henceforth, shooting a suspect would be considered “in-policy” only if it occurred as a last resort.

A key component of the stricter accountability called for in the guidelines was already in place. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck and the commission had instituted a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras, and that every patrol car be equipped with a camera.

Outside critics were already unhappy with some elements of the camera policy, namely providing the right to review any use-of-force tapes before an officer made a sworn shooting statement, thus allowing the officer to present his account in the best possible light, given the hard evidence represented by the video recordings.

Nevertheless, the support of Beck, and the grudging acceptance of the union for the cameras, gave the commission what it considered a crucial new oversight tool in adjudicating use-of-force incidents.

“The cameras,” Johnson said in a conversation with me, “have made a huge difference [in determining accountability.] At the end of the day the video is what the video is. You can only explain so much, but the video is going to stand on its own.”

Beck and the commission had already begun reviewing officer-involved shootings to consider not just whether the shooting was in or out-of-policy, but whether the tactics leading up to the shooting were appropriate. So some elements of the revised guidelines weren’t new.

What is different, however, is that, as a result of the commission’s decision, de-escalation will be written into official policy, mandating that officers be trained in de-escalation techniques that they must use in their interactions with citizens.

Failure to do so will now be cause to declare a shooting “out-of-policy,” even if the officer, because of his failure, had placed himself in a position where he felt he had to fire his weapon to protect himself. An out-of-policy finding has become a serious matter in the LAPD, one that can result in anything from required retraining, to a reprimand, loss of promotion, or firing.

Some of the de-escalation training is also already in place. Shooting scenarios are now performed with actors playing suspects. The scenarios graphically demonstrate how to avoid the need to shoot, focusing on when a trainee might have used de-escalation but didn’t.

“They learn how the right way of talking to a suspect, and the right display of empathy and body language [that] can de-escalate a situation,” said Beck.

Indeed, despite the union’s objections, some experts outside the LAPD do believe a well-executed de-escalation training regime can make officers—and the public—safer.

According to Michael Gennaco, who oversaw reform efforts for the Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department, officers can slow down an escalating situation by taking cover, and calling for back-up or specialized units. They can also try to calm individuals, being careful not to get so close to a suspect that a mere gesture might cause the officer to lose his or her cool.

Clearly, as Gennaco says, “Some shootings are unavoidable; you’ll never get to zero.”

But he adds, “You can strive to get the number as low as possible, and avoid the ‘lawful but awful’ kinds of deadly force incidents that we have seen too many times.”

But is following de-escalation policy sufficient by itself?

Training in avoiding interactions that can quickly spin out of control is obviously critical—-but only if it’s built into community policing strategy. Successful police-citizen interaction ultimately has to be based on efforts to gain the acceptance and respect of the public. De-escalation of volatile incidents is only a first step.

Whether they fall “in” or “out” of the new policy guidelines, police shootings will continue to shock the public conscience unless law enforcement departments establish a clear goal of establishing legitimacy in the communities they serve.

Near the end of my interview with Matt Johnson, I asked him how the LA Police Commission would monitor compliance with the new policy, which is scheduled to be implemented within the next 30 days.

“We have an inspector general with a staff of 40 auditors and investigators who will insure the policy is complied with,” he said.

“And if this policy doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”


Joe Domanick is West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report. This column is being published in partnership with VICE and The Crime Report. Joe welcomes comments from readers.


Photo by Chris Yarzeb courtesy of Creative Commons

Posted in LAPD | 9 Comments »

LAPD Commission Adopts New Use-of-Force Policy…Santa Clara Sheriff Laurie Smith’s Reform Efforts…and Criminalized Black Girls

March 16th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

NEW LAPD USE-OF-FORCE POLICIES FOCUS ON DE-ESCALATION

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Commission approved 12 recommendations from the Inspector General for revising the LAPD’s deadly use-of-force policies to prioritize de-escalation tactics.

Under the revisions officers attempts at de-escalation in a violent situation will be taken into consideration when determining the reasonableness of a particular use of force.

Deadly force, the IG’s report says, should only be used when non-lethal alternatives have been exhausted. And before engaging with mentally ill and homeless populations on Skid Row, all officers assigned to the Resources Enhancement Services and Enforcement Team will complete specialized training.

Some of the recommendations will likely be amended as LAPD officials work through them with the IG and commission.

KPCC’s Ashley Bailey has more on the changes and reactions from law enforcement, advocates, and criminal justice experts. Here’s a clip:

“Changes to policy are not done lightly or often so the intention is to build something that will work not just for today, but going forward,” said Police Commission President Matt Johnson at Tuesday’s meeting.

Johnson, along with Commissioner Robert Saltzman authored the recommendations, which are a skeleton framework for policy changes the commission, LAPD officials, and the Inspector General will hash out in the coming weeks.

Commissioners indicated that three of the most controversial recommendations will be amended as those talks go on. Those items deal with determining whether an officer’s use of force was reasonable, whether they used deadly force only as a last option, and limiting the use of rifles and slug ammunition.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said he supported revisiting the use-of-force policy, but cautioned against creating policies that might put police officers at risk.

“I understand what the commission wants to do–they want to emphasize some of the things that the police department is doing to minimize use of force,” Beck said. “And one of those things is deescalation.”

“We’re not asking (officers) to endanger their lives, but if these strategies are implemented correctly, it should keep both our officers and the community safer,” Johnson said.


SANTA CLARA SHERIFF GETS TO WORK ON FIXING TROUBLED JAILS

On Tuesday, Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith proposed a package of important reforms to reduce the use of excessive force within county jails and improve mental health care for inmates.

The 13 reforms include appointing an inspector general, creating a permanent civilian oversight commission, boosting mental health training for guards, bolstering education programs for inmates, and beefing up background checks and minimum qualifications for prospective guards.

A recent report on conditions within Santa Clara County jails found numerous allegations of excessive force, delayed medical and mental health care, a broken grievance-reporting system, unchecked jail personnel misconduct, and other systemic problems. The report was commissioned by a blue ribbon panel formed after three guards were charged with the murder of a mentally ill inmate, Michael Tyree.

Sheriff Smith even installed an interim camera system for the jails after hearing that implementing new security cameras would cost $20 million and take until 2018. Smith took a trip to Costco, spending $761.24 on 12 security cameras to test in the Main Jail.

San Jose Mercury News’ Tracey Kaplan has the story. Here’s a clip:

In her jail reform plan, Smith lays out 13 goals, including significantly beefing up training to help guards cope with an increasingly mentally ill population of more serious offenders, improving inmate education programs, and increasing minimum qualifications and background checks for prospective guards. For instance, correctional deputies currently only have to have the equivalent of a high school diploma; Smith now wants to require they have some combination of college course work and/or experience in criminal justice work or mental health. She also wants to upgrade background checks on applicants, including by having them take two polygraph tests instead of one.

Only one other major urban county in California – Los Angeles County — has an inspector general and citizens commission to supervise the jails. An inspector general monitors custody operations and facilities, including medical and mental health care; issues reports, including on use of force; and makes recommendations for improvement.

“Before the death of Michael Tyree there were many reforms and initiatives being worked on to improve custody operations,” Smith said. “Michael’s unfortunate death accelerated these efforts.”

Reaction to Smith’s plan Tuesday was mixed. The head of Santa Clara County’s jail-improvement commission and one of the attorneys who filed the class-action suit against the jails both noted that Smith was being reactive, not proactive, but praised her for quickly moving ahead. Many of the sheriff’s recommendations echo what the commission has been urging, including support for an independent inspector general. The group’s formal recommendations are expected to come out in April.

“These are things every correctional system should be doing,” said attorney Kelly Knapp of the Berkeley-based Prison Law Office. “But she’s headed in the right direction sooner than most, unlike many institutions that need to lose a court battle to make changes.”


PUSHING BLACK GIRLS OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND INTO THE JUSTICE SYSTEM

Black girls frequently receive more severe punishments than white girls for the same offenses at school, despite not being any more likely to act out than their white counterparts, according to a 2014 report from the National Women’s Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

According to Dept. of Education data, black girls make up just 17% of enrolled female students, but receive 31% of girls’ referrals to law enforcement, and comprise 43% of school arrests of all female students.

In an interview with The Atlantic’s Melinda Anderson, author and co-founder of the National Black Women’s Justice Institute Monique Morris discusses her new book, Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools, the racial and gender bias fueling the pushout, the victimization behind the “delinquency,” and the “healing power of the narrative.” Here’s a clip:

Melinda D. Anderson: The shocking statistics you cite in the opening chapter—on poverty, dropouts, incarceration, and homicide—paint a chilling picture of the plight of black girls and women today. Can you briefly discuss some of the complex dynamics, the social and economic factors, triggering this situation?

Monique W. Morris: The dynamics here are, indeed, complex. I believe it’s important for us to understand that the negative socioeconomic conditions for black women and girls are related to how race, gender, class, sexual identity, ability, and other identities interact with each other to undermine equal access to opportunity. Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality,” which captures this idea. Black women and girls must often navigate through a landscape that reinforces multidimensional stereotypes and debilitating narratives that negatively impact how black femininity is understood. Implicit racial and gender biases may also inform how we read the behaviors and actions of black girls and women, and how all of this comes together to guide whether black girls are safe in their communities and whether they have access to quality employment, food, housing, and education.

Anderson: You write that black girls are frequently marginalized and criminalized by institutions that should be safeguarding their well-being. Talk about some of the ways that institutional racism, classism, and sexism overlap to portray black girls as “delinquent,” and in the process impede their hopes and aspirations?

Morris: The book talks about educational institutions as “structures of dominance” that can either reinforce negative outcomes and ghettoize opportunity or actively disrupt conditions that render black girls vulnerable to criminalization. Black girls are 16 percent of girls in schools, but 42 percent of girls receiving corporal punishment, 42 percent of girls expelled with or without educational services, 45 percent of girls with at least one out-of-school suspension, 31 percent of girls referred to law enforcement, and 34 percent of girls arrested on campus. Too often, when people read these statistics, they ask, “What did these girls do?” when often, it’s not about what they did, but rather, the culture of discipline and punishment that leaves little room for error when one is black and female.

Black girls describe being labeled and suspended for being “disruptive” or “defiant” if they ask questions or otherwise engage in activities that adults consider affronts to their authority. Across the country, we see black girls being placed in handcuffs for having tantrums in kindergarten classrooms, thrown out of class for asking questions, sent home from school for arriving in shorts on a hot day, labeled as “truant” if they are being commercially sexually exploited, and labeled as “defiant” if they speak up in the face of what they [identify] to be injustice. We also see black girls criminalized (arrested on campus or referred to law enforcement) instead of engaged as children and teens whose mistakes could be addressed through non-punitive restorative approaches.

For girls, education is a critical protective factor against involvement with the juvenile and criminal legal systems. Our first priority should be keeping them in schools, not finding new ways to render them “delinquent.”

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Rodney King Roundup – 25 Years Later

March 4th, 2016 by Taylor Walker

SO HOW FAR HAVE WE COME SINCE 1991?

Thursday marked the 25th anniversary of the night LAPD officers beat Rodney King, fracturing his bones in 59 places and nearly killing him.

In an interview with the Marshall Project’s Bill Keller, Jill Leovy, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America, talks about what we have learned since the King beating and the LA riots.

Leovy discusses black-on-black violence and why law enforcement must give up the “broken windows” style of policing, the targeting specific geographic areas, and stop-and-search practices, and instead focus on “ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes.” The majority of homicides of black men across the nation go unsolved. Leovy calls for diligent and efficient investigations of violent crime in black communities, and rigorous prosecution on behalf of victims.

“The real problem is that formal justice is materially lacking among populations that suffer high rates of violence,” says Leovy. “It’s missing, and it must be supplied.” And “dialogue,” “improved relations” between cops and communities of color, and youth programs won’t solve that underlying problem, she says. Here are some clips:

The unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County posted solve rates for homicide in the thirty-percent range through some of the most violent periods of the eighties and nineties. This translates to thousands of killers operating with impunity over decades in America’s poorest urban enclaves – dozens per square mile in South Los Angeles over just a few years. And that’s just a glimpse of the uncharted depths of the impunity problem, a statistical dark zone, where no good information exists on the frequency of non-lethal crimes, assaults and threats. The resulting lawlessness is a cruel form of deprivation afflicting tens of thousands of mostly poor, minority residents of America’s inner-cities, who get roughed up, robbed and raped with appalling frequency and live in daily fear that their sons might be killed. Its remedy must be to supply official justice, not just engage in “dialogue.” Violence is not a problem for coaches and pastors to solve; the state must do its job.

[SNIP]

What is so strange and interesting is that the political back and forth over policing has been so consistent, for so long, with the same durable themes and complaints sounded on both sides, not just since Rodney King and the millions of dollars spent on police reforms after the L.A. riots, but since long before, back to the 1960s, even the thirties and forties. Much has changed and yet nothing has. We are chasing each other around a box.

Self-styled progressives, especially, often talk as if legitimacy-building were merely a matter of creating “improved relations” between police officers and minority residents of urban neighborhoods. If police were just nicer, more sensitive, had a better understanding of civilians, or vice versa, things would improve. This is as hollow, in its way, as conservative talk of self-generated cultural and moral renewal in black neighborhoods. Legitimacy will not be built solely of community meetings, youth programs, skillful official propaganda, or artful expressions of empathy. They may have value, but as a cure for lawlessness I think they miss the core point, and in some cases risk deputizing civilians to assume conflict-resolution functions that rightly belong to the state. The state’s job is to intervene in conflicts – yes, even between people of the same color – and it must do so unequivocally and consistently.

So, police need to annoy and alienate fewer non-offenders, and arrest more serious, violent offenders. Pull back from broken-windows-style saturation, targeting patches of geography, and stop-and-search tactics, and concentrate on ensuring judicial resolution of serious crimes. Broken windows sprang from the premise that police were too focused on violence at the expense of quality-of-life crimes. But the premise is based on error. American criminal justice has never been very effective at investigating and prosecuting violence, especially in black communities; the reported statistics that claim otherwise are flawed. Violent crime in America today, as in generations past, begs for more systematically thorough and effective investigation, and clean, vigorous prosecution. A mother who grieves for a son lost to an unsolved homicide should not go years without hearing from police about new investigative efforts. A witness who testifies in spite of threats should not be abandoned to deal alone with the long-term consequences. Homicide units in high-crime areas should be solving nearly all murders, not half or less. The system will build legitimacy through its constitutionally constrained yet vigorous, response to people who are hurt, violated and bereaved by violence. The criminal justice system must deliver.

I’m not arguing for a hammer. Tensions between police power and civil liberties are real and involve high stakes; their resolution need not tilt toward law-enforcement. But those who claim the mantle of civil rights should not forget that crime victims — not just defendants — are disproportionately black, and that they suffer unspeakably. My newspaper just reported the killing of a one-year-old baby, Autumn Johnson, in Compton. The mother of this black child said: “I feel like my life is over. I wish it would have been me instead of her.” I don’t assert black crime victims are the only constituency that matters. But they deserve more somber, respectful consideration than they get, and they belong at the center of any serious discussion of police reform. Very often, these victims want and need their attackers to be caught and prosecuted. Omit their names, elide over their sufferings, relegate them to footnotes — as is the case in so many popular criminal-justice critiques today — and you lose the claim to humane advocacy.


BATONS, NOW RARELY USED BY POLICE, WERE ONCE (CERTAINLY IN THE RODNEY KING ERA) THE MOST USED WEAPON

Earlier this week, the LAPD released a comprehensive use-of-force report comparing 2015 stats with those of the previous four years. (We posted about the report—here.) According to the numbers, in 2015, LAPD officers used their batons 54 times—21% less often than during the period spanning 2011-2014—and a far cry from the 741 times cops used the weapon in 1990.

The LA Times’ Richard Winton tells the story of how the videotaped Rodney King beating led to fall of the baton as LAPD officers’ weapon of choice. Here’s how it opens:

When the video of Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney G. King shocked the world 25 years ago, the baton quickly became a symbol of law enforcement abuse.

The grainy black and white images showed a group of LAPD officers delivering 56 crunching blows to the African American motorist.

Back then, the 2-foot solid piece of aluminum was an essential tool in the police officer’s arsenal. In 1990, Los Angeles police officers used their batons 741 times during force incidents, more than any other weapon.

But the infamous video marked the beginning of the end for the baton’s reign. By 2015, LAPD officers used their batons just 54 times.

The baton offers a dramatic example of how police behavior has changed since the King beating. Authorities said that officers stopped using them for a variety of reasons: Changes in rules and training and the rise of other types of less-lethal weapons, as well as the lasting stigma from those grainy images.

“Back then, it was pulling out a baton and whacking people,” LAPD Deputy Chief Bill Murphy said. “After that video played that night, no one hardly ever used the baton. It was banished. It became a symbol.”


LESSER-KNOWN, FILMED PRECURSORS TO THE RODNEY KING VIDEO

The video of the Rodney King beating may have been the first viral video of police brutality—one that ushered in an era of many much-watched videos of law enforcement misconduct, and a flood of police body-worn (and dash) cams—but others came before it. When the King story originally broke, Time compiled a list of “America’s ugliest home videos,” caught on film by citizens armed with video cameras. Here’s a clip from Time’s updated version of that original story:

Laguna Beach, Calif. A neighbor across the street from an unruly party on June 17, 1990, recorded a harrowing 90 seconds of violence. Although a car partly blocked the view, an officer can be seen on camera swinging his leg in a kick at Kevin Dunbar, 24, a homeless man, while a number of other officers held him after he refused to obey an order to get down on the ground. The man, his face bleeding, was then lifted to his feet and led away to a squad car. A lawsuit against the Laguna Beach police department was filed last month, and the tapes are expected to be important evidence.

Chicago. Max’s Italian Beef Restaurant on the northwest side had a security camera in full view, but the two uniformed police rifling the cash register and prying open the safe last July were too busy to notice. The veteran officers allegedly lifted $7,000. They were indicted and await trial.


KING’S DAUGHTER LORA KING REMEMBERS HER FATHER

The LA Times has a wealth of King-related reading material. In one of the stories we didn’t want you to miss, the Times’ Angel Jennings speaks with Lora King about her father, his legacy, and the human behind the symbol—the dad, the addict, the troubled man still carrying the emotional scars of the beating and the guilt of the riots when he died in 2012. Here are some clips:

Lora King was 7 years old on March 3, 1991, when her dad, on parole and drunk, was infamously beaten in Lakeview Terrace.

Days later, King limped toward his daughter. His face was still swollen. One eye was protruding out of its socket. He talked from the side of his mouth like Popeye.

“I was terrified,” she recalled. “He looked like a monster, but he had a big smile on his face like it was no big deal.”

She had seen George Holliday’s grainy video of baton blows raining down on her father on the evening news. He told her he was fine.

Many years would go by before father and daughter truly reckoned with the emotional scars left by the beating.

“I purposely never brought it up because I always felt that he couldn’t escape it,” said Lora King, 32, an administrative assistant at a Glendale accounting firm. “I tried to stay in a happy place.”

She remembered a father who spent Fridays crisscrossing Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties to pick up his three daughters.

On the long ride, he would map out the plans for the weekend. Sometimes, it was skiing at Mt. Baldy, surfing in Venice, a day at Raging Waters. He also liked to go to places where famous people, including black celebrities and artists, would draw attention away from him.

[SNIP]

She stopped looking at her father through the eyes of a child years ago.

In the years after the beating, Rodney King continued to have trouble with the law. In 1993, he crashed into a wall while driving drunk. Two years later, he served 90 days in jail after being charged with a hit-and-run for knocking his wife down with his car. He was hooked on PCP.

Lora King saw a broken man who carried the guilt for the lives lost during the riot that broke out after a jury in Simi Valley cleared the LAPD officers charged in his beating.

He faced real demons, she said.

His frequent run-ins with the law after the beating continued to make him a divisive figure — and a less-than-perfect role model.

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LAPD Chief Charlie Beck Talks About Officer Involved Shootings, Community Relations, Changing Cop Culture…and More – by Joe Domanick

March 3rd, 2016 by witnessla

“MAYBE WE’LL BECOME AN EXAMPLE FOR AMERICA”

The LAPD’s Charlie Beck sits down to talk with The Crime Report’s Joe Domanick about policing in Los Angeles—and beyond.

by Joe Domanick

Now in his seventh year in office, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck has both built and expanded upon the reforms that were begun by his predecessor and mentor, William J. Bratton, who was LAPD chief from 2002-2009. In the process, Beck has become something of a rising star in the reformist wing of American policing—-in large part due to his innovative community policing work.

Last October he went to the White House with 130 other top law enforcement leaders to meet with President Barack Obama. The topic was the future of criminal justice reform, and Beck was chosen to speak with the president on the group’s behalf.

But Beck has also come under attack in Los Angeles for, among other things, his handling of controversial officer-involved shootings—which almost doubled in the city in 2015—prompting the local branch of Black Lives Matter to call for his resignation. In dealing with the media, Beck has been deliberate in not making the LAPD about himself—-a rare occurrence in a department ruled for more than 40 years by thin-skinned chiefs. As a result there have been few in-depth interviews with him.

In late January 2016, journalist and author Joe Domanick interviewed Chief Charlie Beck for over two hours.

Domanick has written two books about the department that Beck leads: To Protect and to Serve and Blue: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Battle to Redeem American Policing. (The latter is shortlisted for a 2016 LA Times Book Award). He is also the West Coast editor for The Crime Report.

Beck and Domanick’s free-wheeling discussion covers a host of issues facing the chief and other police executives nationwide, post-Ferguson.

The interview below with Chief Beck has been edited and condensed.


COMMUNITY POLICING

Among the most vital issues Domanick discussed with Chief Beck was community policing – considered the key to fundamental policing reform for the foreseeable future. Their discussion included how best to get “buy-in” for community policing from rank-and-file cops and their often change-phobic unions; and how to get them to leave behind the militaristic attitudes that informed the nation’s ‘wars’ on crime and drugs.

JOE DOMANICK: You use the term “community efficacy” when talking about community policing. What do you mean by that?

CHARLIE BECK: We have to recognize what a strong factor the police [can be] in building communities. It’s a huge responsibility to go into a community that has extreme issues with crime, lack of connection and cohesiveness, to [help solve those problems] and then give the people back their neighborhoods. I can flood any neighborhood with police officers and make it safe overnight. But what I want — and what I believe police can do — is build community [residents’] belief that they are in charge of their own destiny, and can make a difference in how and where they live. I believe that is the next revolution of policing.

JD: How do you do that?

BECK: Our bureau chiefs, area captains, senior lead officers are all involved – that’s about 300 people. They are responsible for [everything from] crime to ….issues like abandoned couches; and for everything in one piece of turf 24/7. And our area captains, through community policing, have total authority to affect quality of life and the way people feel about safety in their commands.

I’m proudest of our Community Safety Partnerships in our housing developments, where officers are assigned not to make arrests but to build community. We pioneered that, and it’s spreading throughout the city. Officers make a five-year commitment to stay there to make a difference in quality of life. And they are not judged on arrest numbers. They are judged on public safety overall, and on community cohesiveness.

We are going to start doing community surveys…Not only city-wide, but community surveys in the various divisions, so we can compare and contrast and measure progress. So [evaluation won’t just be based] on crime numbers, but on how people feel about us and public safety.


CHANGING POLICE CULTURE

At its heart, community policing requires building trust and active, transparent grassroots cooperative relationships with the neighborhood residents being policed. Each controversial police shooting, incident of police abuse, or even of rudeness has its cost in terms of undoing the good being done through community policing. In fact, according to Temple University criminologist Jerry Ratcliffe, it takes between four and 14 positive interactions with police to undo one negative interaction.

JD: Are there any changes, or any training you’ve been doing, to try to keep to the bare minimum officer-involved shootings and other police abuses?

BECK: The organization has changed its philosophy – its internal philosophy, not just its external stated philosophy – dramatically…This past summer we put our entire operations force [about 86 percent of the LAPD] through 10 hours of preservation-of-life training. The focus was to reinforce the necessity to preserve human life as our primary objective. We are following that up now with many hours of scenario-based training, about 32 for the entire force. We did the philosophy and now we are doing the application.

We now select people for success within the structure that we have created. I’ve been the chief almost seven years now. and Bratton was the chief for seven years before me. Literally. we have got two generations of cops. The vast majority of patrol cops were hired by me, [most of the rest by] Bratton. And [this structure is] all they have ever known.

JD: How has the police academy training changed in terms of your desires for community policing. As you know Bratton gave a lot of officers, including yourself, kind of carte blanche to start to think about these things.

BECK: We have changed the training in the last couple of years to be more all-inclusive. We don’t silo our topics. We include de-escalation of force training and communications skills and everything that they do. I have a civilian employee with a doctorate in education that runs my academy. She is absolutely focused on making sure that we do as inclusive a job as we can with our recruits.

We’ve also begun to bring the academy classes later in their careers—at their one, two-and-a-half and five-year points [of service] for more in-service training on the exact topics we’ve been talking about. We believe that is the most effective way for them to learn, because they already are in the same learning group, with shared interests and experiences.

They already have a pecking order and their social group is already done. In any kind of training, all those things have to get resolved before any learning occurs. So we are bringing them back and their academy cohorts for training on this exact topic. That is called the LAPD University. We are totally redoing the way that we look at in-service training in order to apply the right kinds of lessons at the right time in their career.


DISCIPLINE

JD: One of raps against you from some within the LAPD is that your discipline is inconsistent. Do they have a point?

BECK: Sometimes folks forget discipline is not solely based on the act. There are termination offenses no matter what kind of record you have. But discipline is certainly influenced by an officer’s history. A person who makes a mistake over and over is going to receive much harsher discipline than somebody who makes it for the first time.

JD: What do you mean when you talk about a ‘mistake of the heart’ and a ‘mistake of the head’?

BECK: A mistake of the heart is malignant. Doing something with evil intent is very different than doing something because you made a poor decision with good intentions. A mistake of the heart is planting dope on somebody. A mistake of the head is miscounting narcotics when you book, it and [us] finding out that [that the total is wrong.] Mistakes of the heart, I can’t tolerate. Through training and reinforcement a lot of the mistakes of the head can be rectified so they won’t reoccur.

JD: Aren’t there are some ‘mistakes of the head’ that need to be strongly disciplined as an example to other officers?

BECK: I do fire people for mistakes of the head. Drinking and driving is a mistake of the head. It is not because you have a malignant heart. I fire people for that to set an example. Not the first time but certainly the second time.


PROSECUTING OFFICER-INVOLVED SHOOTINGS

JD: In 2015, there were a number of LAPD shootings of the kind where you sit up on your TV couch and say, “Wow! I can’t believe they just shot that guy.”

Recently you’ve sent to the D.A. the case of the fatal LAPD shooting of Brendon Glenn [a young, unarmed black man who was shot in the back in Venice, Ca.] with a recommendation to prosecute the officer. How does that differ from some of the other controversial LAPD officer-involved shootings? Is it a rare occurrence in this or any city for an officer to get referred for an indictment in a shooting incident?

BECK: First of all, I have done this many times in other instances. I have [recommended] prosecuting police officers for murder and everything below that, as [an Internal Affairs] detective and as chief, I’ve aggressively prosecuted police officers. Usually that’s not for actions conducted while on duty, (but) sometimes it is. Recently we had a case prosecuted where an officer kicked somebody unnecessarily. That was captured on video. It didn’t result in a death. I don’t shy from that. I don’t like prosecuting cops but that doesn’t stop me from doing it.

JD: Nevertheless, the LAPD has a high rate of officer-involved shootings, compared to other police agencies.

BECK: We make many, many contacts, and have maybe the most gang violence. There are consequences to that. When you have the most interactions and the most radio calls and the most arrests, you are going to have the most opportunities for [officer-involved] shootings. You can’t compare us to an agency half our size and say ‘why do you have more shootings?’ Of course we have more shootings. We have more of everything.

Then the other piece is we have a geographic or demographic that is more violent than others then police are going to come in contact with that violence. And you are going to have an increase in police use of force.

JD: Why do officer-involved shootings take so long to adjudicate? One just took 13 months. Your critics say you’re just taking your time until public outrage has settled and the incident is off everybody’s mind.

BECK: Should we adjudicate it before the autopsy is done? Autopsies take three to four months. Should we adjudicate them before all the witnesses’ statements and everything else is done? We do homicide level investigations on every one of these [officer involved shootings]. Then after the investigations, the [LAPD] Inspector General looks at them, [the department’s] Use-of-Force board and the Chief of Police look at them, and then the police commission has to rule on them. And all of that takes time. They have to review 48 shootings [in 2015] and multiple other uses of force.

Which part of this scenario do I skip? It was designed by the [1991 Warren] Christopher Commission and the [U.S Justice Department’s] consent decree, in response to what people saw as a department that was [out of] control. And we follow it scrupulously.

JD: Does the Los Angeles District Attorney ever investigate LAPD officers without the recommendation of the department first?

BECK: We present every officer-involved shooting to the DA for review. Every one of ‘em. Nobody else does that. No matter how good they are. They all go to the DA for review. And the DA responds as a roll out tape that goes to every officer involved shooting scene at the time it occurs and has for years.

JD: Before, if the LAPD didn’t send it over to them, they didn’t do any investigation. It’s not that way anymore?

BECK: No. We send every one of them over there, and they are invited – we have a DA assigned to each one of the investigations.

JD: So if the DA wanted to, she could initiate her own investigation—after you send it over—and indict, even though the department is not asking for the indictment?

BECK: Absolutely.


BLACK-ON-BLACK VIOLENCE

JD: If I were a police chief I would talk about violence among poor African-American young men every day, and why nothing is being done except more repression and mass incarceration, in terms of long-term investment to remedy the situation.

BECK: You’re absolutely correct. A small minority of the population commit— and are victims of—the vast majority of crime. Much of that is tied to circumstances of birth and race and many other things. [We’re] about changing that dynamic. It’s the hardest thing to do in policing. But if you create a sense of social efficacy and a belief that a community is in charge of its own destiny you can reduce violence and crime.

I always struggle with how hard I am going to lean on the fact that 42 percent of our homicide victims are African Americans, [whose population is less than 9 percent of Los Angeles]; and 40 percent of the suspects arrested for homicide were African American. [But] just railing on why nobody will fix the problems in [our] poor communities— I don’t know how much that will get me. I think everybody understands [the causes].

JD: But people don’t understand that. It’s been hard for many, many white people to grasp.

BECK: Well, it’s very true [about the circumstances]. We have to have the conversation about what is killing our youth – because that is what this is—our youth. We all have to recognize that some of our communities are much more prone to violence than others. And we’ve got to find a way to fix that.

But everybody [in a department] has to pull together. And [even then] everything we do can be unwound by one Neanderthal [cop] that treats people badly in the wrong situation.

JD: Well, I have come to understand that you’ve had to bring the troops along. And police unions are a powerfully resistant political force.

BECK: Of course. That’s why I get frustrated with my union when they go hard right on some of these issues. I need their members to believe in [what we’re trying to do], because that’s how we’ll get better, and maybe we’ll become an example for America. Maybe.


STOP & FRISK

JD: Is your department still doing roughly the same [high] amount of stop and frisks?

BECK: Well, I hate that term, of course. Our detentions are reduced, our overall arrests have been part of a continuing decline. A lot of that is due to a de-emphasis through the courts and through law and even internally [due to a de-emphasis] towards narcotics arrests and some other lower-level types of arrests that have caused those numbers to go down. Our stops have declined on a similar level, but we still make a lot of stops. There are still multiple hundreds of thousands of year.

JD: In our previous discussion for this interview you were talking about how “explanation” in policing–stops goes a long way towards easing the tension during a stop. Your ability to articulate why you stopped somebody has a lot to do with how people feel about it.

BECK: One of the great things about the body cameras and the in car video is that supervisors are able to review that [interaction] period, and see how effective their officers are at it, and make adjustments. One of the reasons that we look at biased policing complaints so exhaustively is because I think that many of them are an exact symptom of this – of a lack of explanation.

JD: What do you want to get done during the remaining three years of your term?

BECK: I want to get back on track with crime, be the model in building community trust, and get people to have faith in this police department to the extent that the national conversation [about how police abuse] may have damaged it.

JD: In terms of building community trust, how far along do you think the department currently is?

BECK: I believe our police officers generally make excellent decisions on stopping the right people in the right circumstance. Do I put inexperienced people out there? Do I fish with a net? No. We try to be as targeted as possible. Fishing with a net is a very bad way to police. You may catch a lot of fish, but you certainly don’t get the right kind.


BODY AND DASHBOARD CAMERAS

In 2015, Chief Beck implemented a body and dashboard camera policy that allows officers to see the camera videos before they make their use-of-force reports, but keeps the footage under wraps for almost everyone else. That policy pacified the Police Protective League, but it left civil libertarians and other critics angry and disillusioned.

JD: How difficult was it for you to pull all the interested parties together and come up with your plan?

BECK: It was difficult. Nobody is completely is satisfied with this. Nobody. The ACLU, the Police Protective League [the LAPD Union], the city council and I are all not completely satisfied. But it’s a workable compromise that allows police accountability and officer’s confidence in a tool that is being used to not only monitor them but also support their work.

You’ve got a balance – I can make a system that’s pure monitoring of officers, or a system that’s pure prosecution, but we want something that [the officers] will use; that allows for accountability; and will improve behavior on both sides of the camera and change the way cops perceive their jobs. All of us are guilty of not being our best at all times. Cameras increase the likelihood that everybody will perform to their optimum capability.

JD: Two issues with the plan: the public doesn’t get to see the videos of these controversial shootings; and the officers are allowed to view the video before they make their statement. Both of these issues seem problematic.

BECK: Representatives of the public are allowed to see the videos. The Police Commission, the District Attorney, City Attorney and the [LAPD] Inspector General all have full access to these videos. A video is a form of evidence, like a written statement, an oral recording, a photograph or an autopsy. To release it out of context doesn’t do justice to the investigation. These are raw videos, capturing a knot hole of an incident and not the totality of the circumstances. What we are looking for is not absolute transparency. It’s accountability.

As for an officer being allowed to view the video before making a statement, shouldn’t an officer when transcribing his report be able to review it, so that [he or she] can make their most accurate statement based on a report he created?

JD: Or critics might suggest they can make a statement that’s most favorable to them when based on the video.

BECK: The evidence [the video] is what the evidence is. You can’t change it by your statement. If you have acted inappropriately or improperly the evidence in the video will generally show that. We’re trying to create a tool that officers will use and embrace and adds a level of accountability. So there are compromises made. The addition of video is no different than the many other pieces of evidence that officers are allowed to view before making their statements. We do a walk thru so they can see the scene [of the incident].

Being involved in a shooting is very traumatic. We are trying to get their best recollection. If the investigators decide that is not the best way to do it than we don’t. In the Venice shooting (of Brendon Glenn), the officer involved] hasn’t seen that tape, because I thought it was a criminal act [when I viewed it.]


THE HOMELESS

Shortly after our interview the City and County of Los Angeles announced plans to dramatically increase funding and housing for LA homeless of about 47,000 – the largest in the nation.

JD: Let’s talk about the huge homeless problem in the city of Los Angeles, and how it’s essentially been left to the LAPD to deal with for decades.

BECK: The best thing about this year is that finally other people are [also] taking responsibility for it. [Mayor] Eric Garcetti has done a phenomenal job of bringing people together. . .[LA’s] government is so decentralized and power is so dispersed. . .that it’s very difficult to get things done without building a consensus. But he’s brought [Los Angeles] county [towards reform] along and the County [controls] all the mental health services and the majority of the money for housing and other services.

We’ve been locked in a spiral going the wrong way on this. We had to claim a 14 percent increase in the [number] of homelessness living on the street last year. Visually, it looks like double that, and that’s a huge crime issue for us. I mean our number one division in crime increase this year was Central [Division, in Downtown LA., including skid row]. And damn near all of that is homeless on homeless crime.

JD: So what’s the new plan?

BECK: Creating more homeless housing and incentives for people to want to live in that housing. We have vacant beds every night [in skid-row facilities]. So people need to be willing to people willing to go to [homeless housing]. And the department [has been developing] mental health teams – ‘smart teams’ of a mental health provider and a police officer that respond to not only calls about the mentally ill but also do case work on the homeless and mentally ill.

JD: How many officers are working on that?

BECK: I am adding 32 and I had 40. That’s a big commitment. And the Department of Mental Health has agreed to add 30 more [of their personnel]. We are going to be handle almost 70 percent of our mental health calls with those teams. . .We can fix this problem with enough energy, commitment and funding. It’s not fixed now, but things are lining up and maybe we can make some progress.


A CHIEF’S MANAGMENT STYLE

JD: LA has a long history of combative LAPD chiefs like Ed Davis, Daryl Gates and Bernard Parks who warred with the media and other critics, and made the LAPD all about themselves. Even Bill Bratton, who courted the press and public, made the department about ‘Bill Bratton the Reformer.’ You on the other hand, have kept a remarkably low profile. Why?

BECK: The chief of police should not be everybody’s focus of interest.. My ideal scenario is having a police department that [the public] believes in more than they believe in the chief. I have got a finite time [in office], a goodbye date. I have to create an organization that will continue [to get better]. We made huge progress in Bratton’s administration and hopefully in mine; I want that to [pass that on] to the next chief.



Joe Domanick is West Coast bureau chief of The Crime Report, and Associate Director of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at John Jay College in NYC. He is the author of “Blue: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Battle to Redeem American Policing.”.

Joe welcomes your comments

This story is being crossposted with the permission of The Crime Report.


Photo of Charlie Beck courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Posted in Charlie Beck, LAPD | 2 Comments »

LAPD Use-of-Force Report…”Fight Club” SFSD Deputies Indicted…and Tribal Juvenile Justice

March 2nd, 2016 by Taylor Walker

LAPD DELIVERS NEW FIVE-YEAR USE-OF-FORCE COMPARISON REPORT TO COMMISSION

In 2015, LAPD officers shot at 15 mentally ill people—a number triple that of the previous year, according to a yearly use-of-force report presented to the police commission on Tuesday.

The report compares five years of use of force data from 2011 to 2015, and “represents the LAPD’s steadfast commitment to providing detailed information on the Department’s uses of force,” said LAPD Chief Charlie Beck. “This unprecedented analysis and amount of information will help the LAPD continuously improve our efforts to preserve life and protect the community.”

Of the 1,503,758 times LAPD officers had contact with the public, .13% resulted in a use-of-force, and .003% led to an officer-involved shooting.

Out of the 48 total officer-involved shootings in 2015, 21 suspects (44%) were killed by the gunfire. (This rate is similar to that of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, which recorded 41% of officer-involved shootings as having resulted in the death of a suspect.) Twelve of the shootings were found to be suicide-by-cop situations. Of those shot at by law enforcement, 48% were Latino, 25% were black, 15% were white, and 4% were Asian/Pacific Islander.

Of the 38 times LAPD cops shot at suspects, 33 (or 87%) of those times, the individuals were armed. And 19 (58%) of those suspects were armed with a firearm. Three times, officers shot people they perceived to have a firearm, but were actually unarmed. The other two times cops shot unarmed suspects, the individuals had caused serious bodily injury to themselves or others.

LAPD use of tasers and beanbag guns increased 24% and 31%, respectively, over the 2014 rates. Officers’ use of strikes, kicks, and punches, and baton strikes decreased 35% and 21% in 2015 in comparison to the period between 2011 and 2014.


THREE SAN FRANCISCO DEPUTIES INDICTED FOR ORGANIZED INMATE FIGHTS

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced charges against three San Francisco deputies accused of forcing jail inmates to brawl in gladiator-style fights.

The alleged ringleader, 42-year-old former Deputy Scott Neu also reportedly made inmates gamble for food, clean clothes, and bedding. One of the brawling inmates said Neu also forced him to do 200 push-ups in an hour.

Neu was charged with 17 counts carrying up to 10 years total in state prison: four felony counts of assault under the color of authority, four felony counts of making threats, five misdemeanor counts of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment, and four misdemeanor counts of inhumanity to a prisoner.

The two other deputies involved in the inmate fight club are still employed by the SF Sheriff’s Dept., and have been reassigned to positions with no inmate contact. Deputy Eugene Jones, 45, faces five criminal counts, and Deputy Clifford Chiba—who is accused of witnessing Neu and Jones forcing inmates to fight, and not making any attempt to stop them—faces three.

“Subjecting inmates who are in our care and custody to degrading and inhumane treatment makes a mockery of our criminal justice system and undermines any efforts toward rehabilitation,” Gascón said at a press conference.

San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association President Eugene Cerbone accused Gascón of “disrupting people’s lives on the words of criminals. You’re disrupting people’s lives, people with families, because a drug dealer said he had to do push-ups.”

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Vivian Ho has the story. Here’s a clip:

Gascón and Public Defender Jeff Adachi, who brought the allegations to light in March 2015, said they believed the jail fights exposed a culture in the Sheriff’s Department in which bad actors were protected out of a sense of loyalty.

The deputies’ conduct had been under investigation by local and federal authorities since two inmates, Ricardo Palikiko Garcia and Stanley Harris, came forward to say deputies — Neu in particular — had threatened them with violence or withheld food in order to force them to engage in fights for deputies to bet on.

Garcia and Harris said the deputies had told them that “anything goes” in the fights, but instructed them not to leave marks on the face. If they required medical attention, they were to lie and say they fell off a bunk, the inmates said.

Prosecutors charged Neu, Jones and Chiba for their alleged roles in two staged fights between the two inmates that took place on March 5 and 6 in County Jail No. 4 at 850 Bryant St., according to court documents. Neu allegedly told the inmates that he would transfer them to another jail with fewer privileges if they didn’t fight each other.

Garcia, who was in custody on drug and gun possession charges but has since been released, is significantly smaller than Harris. He said the first fight had resulted in injuries to his ribs that were so painful he could not sleep on his side. Chiba was at this fight, court documents state.

Jones and Neu allegedly forced Garcia and Harris to fight again the next day, and Neu egged them on, according to court documents. The inmates said they were afraid Neu would hurt them if they refused.

“They were friends,” Adachi said Tuesday. “They did not want to fight each other, but were being forced to do this and threatened that if they did not fight and did not exhibit a real fight, there would be real consequences. These two individuals were terrified when they came to us.”


NEW FEDERAL GUIDELINES FOR TRAUMA-INFORMED JUVENILE JUSTICE FOR NATIVE AMERICANS

Tribal courts should utilize treatment, foster care, and counseling, rather than fines and incarceration for Native American kids, according to draft federal guidelines released Monday.

The new guidelines replace a 30-year-old, outdated juvenile code. The updated code would considerably limit the incarceration of Native American kids, favoring of tribal community alternatives, and emphasize kids’ right to representation at all stages of juvenile court proceedings, among other changes.

Children growing up in tribal communities experience violence at a rate higher than any other race, according to a 2014 Justice Department report. Native American kids are also five times more likely than the general population to have four or more Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). (Kids with four ACEs have a much higher likelihood of having emotional and physical health issues, among other serious negative outcomes.) Native American youth also face disparities in probation, detention, and residential facilities.

The draft guidelines were announced by the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Robert Listenbee, Assistant Secretary of the Dept. of the Interior’s Indian Affairs, Lawrence S. Roberts, and the and the head of the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Kana Enomoto.

“OJJDP and the Bureau of Indian Affairs share a commitment to work with tribal communities as they reform their juvenile justice systems,” said Listenbee. “We support a developmental and trauma-informed approach to reform that better meets the needs of tribal youth at risk or involved in the juvenile justice system. The updated Code reflects such an approach.”

Posted in LAPD | 4 Comments »

Paying for Lawsuits Against the LAPD, Crisis Centers, Parole for Juvie Crimes, and Realignment Savings

January 21st, 2016 by Taylor Walker

TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE CITY OF LA’S $24 MILLION FALSE CONVICTION SETTLEMENTS

On Tuesday, the LA City Council approved $24.3 million in settlements to two men, Kash Delano Register and Bruce Lisker, who were wrongfully convicted of murder and spent decades in prison.

On Wednesday’s episode of KCRW’s Which Way LA?, the LA Times’ Matt Lait and LA Police Commission Vice President Steve Soboroff talked with host Warren Olney about the city’s decision to agree to a big-bucks settlement based on the likelihood that going to court would cost more than the $24 million.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Register, who was convicted of killing a man at age 18 in 1979, after his lawyers accused the prosecution of withholding exculpatory evidence from the defense, and using false testimony. Lisker’s conviction for his mother’s 1983 murder was overturned after a judge found that the prosecution had presented false testimony.

Lait pointed out that Register’s lawyers were originally demanding $40 million to settle, and Lisker’s lawyers were demanding around $22 million. Through federal mediators, those sums were brought down to approximately $16.7 and $7.6 million respectively.

When asked if he thought the City Council made the correct call by settling, Soboroff said, “I believe [the City Council] did the right thing. They were travesties. They happened 37 and 33 years ago. It was a different world then in Los Angeles policing than it is now.”

Soboroff asserted that today’s law enforcement officers are not making such egregious errors in policing as in Register and Lisker’s cases. “This is not going to happen again,” Soboroff said. “This is not like the Netflix “Making a Murderer” that’s been going on recently. That is not what our police department is about.”

The commission president said that while officers make mistakes, the LAPD had established a number of protections since Register and Lisker’s convictions. “We have a system which has national recognition as having safeguards, having citizen oversight, having independent inspector generals, having all kinds of intra- and inter-department safeties…”

The Times’ Lait was not so convinced. “You see time and again throughout the country, DNA evidence exonerating people… Even though there’s no DNA evidence in this case, Mr. Register’s case dealt with eyewitness identifications. And those can be faulty. So there’s always the risk.”


LA COUNTY TURNING TO CRISIS CENTERS FOR MENTAL HEALTH EMERGENCIES

The LA Times’ Abby Sewell takes a look inside Los Angeles’ crisis centers, as the county shifts toward a reliance on LA’s five centers, rather than jails or hospitals, for taking care of a person in the middle of a mental health emergency.

These centers, the newest of which opened in Culver City last month, serve as places law enforcement officers can bring people in crisis. Often, police officers have to choose between waiting 6-8 hours to drop someone in crisis off at hospital emergency room, or booking the person on a minor charge and getting back to work within an hour.

Here’s a clip from Sewell’s story:

Until recently, Los Angeles police were reluctant to take patients directly to the urgent care centers because, unlike hospital emergency rooms, the centers don’t take people with serious medical issues or who are extremely drunk or aggressive.

But after meeting with Exodus staff over the summer to clarify the guidelines, police have begun taking more patients to the centers rather than emergency rooms. In December 2014, law enforcement officers took 209 patients to L.A. County-USC Medical Center and 107 to the Exodus center across the street. In August, officers took 196 patients to the hospital and 268 to the urgent care center. LAPD officers who had been frustrated at the time they spent waiting to hand off patients to medical staff at the overcrowded county emergency rooms said the turnaround time is much quicker at the urgent care centers.

“The times I’ve been there, it’s been 15 minutes as opposed to two hours at the ER,” said Lt. Brian Bixler of the Los Angeles Police Department’s specialized mental health team.

The turn to urgent care centers has also helped to alleviate overcrowding at the county hospitals’ psychiatric emergency departments and in the regular emergency rooms. The average morning patient count for the three county psychiatric emergency rooms was about 40 in November, down from 60 a year earlier.

Mark Ghaly, director of community programs for the county’s Department of Health Services, which runs the hospitals, said a “significant amount” of the reduction in crowding can be attributed to the increased use of urgent care centers…

But it can be a challenge to find a bed in a psychiatric facility that provides long-term care. One patient waited a week at an urgent care center — in violation of rules — before an inpatient bed was found.

Ghaly said the expansion of urgent care centers will be a boon to hospitals, but needs to come with “a commensurate increase” in inpatient beds and community-based resources so patients have somewhere to go upon release.


DEFINING CALIFORNIA JUVENILE OFFENDERS’ SECOND CHANCE AT PAROLE

On Wednesday, a California appeals court ruled that, for inmates who were sentenced to life-without-parole for juvenile crimes, judges must take into consideration evidence of prisoners’ rehabilitation when deciding parole eligibility.

In 2014, the CA Supreme Court ruled that judges must take a second look at juvenile life-without-parole sentences, but the ruling did not specify what kind of evidence, if any, a prisoner could present for the second chance at parole.

The Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles overturned a judge’s decision to disregard evidence that Elizabeth Lozano, who killed another teenager when she was 16-years-old, had turned her life around in prison.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s Bob Egelko has more on appeals court’s decision. Here’s a clip:

In the state’s first appellate ruling on the issue, the court said the U.S. and California Supreme Court decisions had emphasized that juveniles were different from adults in maturity and responsibility, and that judges must consider all evidence relating to the “distinctive attributes of youth” before imposing harsh sentences.

“All relevant evidence, in our view, includes what Lozano asserts is 15 years of rehabilitation in prison,” Justice Sandy Kriegler said last Thursday in a 3-0 ruling ordering a new hearing.

Lozano, a 16-year-old member of a Los Angeles street gang, fatally shot Tayde Vasquez and took her jewelry in January 1992 after hearing that the girl had accused her of plotting with members of a rival gang. She was tried and sentenced as an adult in 1996, violated prison rules repeatedly for four years, and was convicted of a drug crime. But she has been discipline-free since then and has apparently turned her life around, the court said.

Lozano earned a high school diploma and a two-year college degree in prison, was elected to an inmate council that works with prison administrators, took part in an outreach program to help juveniles stay crime-free, and has won praise from a former prison warden and numerous staff members, the court said.

When she tried to present that information to the judge who was ordered to reconsider her sentence, prosecutors objected. They argued that evidence of good behavior in prison can be presented only at a separate hearing, authorized by a recent state law, that juveniles sentenced to life without parole can request after 15 years in prison.


CA PRISON OFFICIALS ANSWER CALLS FOR ACCOUNTABILITY ON BILLIONS IN ABSENT REALIGNMENT SAVINGS

Last week, WLA pointed to an LA Times editorial taking a closer look at why, despite a promised pile of savings from California’s realignment strategy and Proposition 47, the state’s prison budget has only risen over the last four years.

In response to calls for accountability from CA lawmakers, on Wednesday, prison officials released a long-term corrections plan that says the state would have had to spend $1.3 billion more, if not for the inmate population reductions from realignment and Prop. 47. Corrections officials also say that the current spending is necessary to keep the inmate population below a level ordered by a panel of federal judges, and that money is being spent on private prisons, while dilapidated and costly prisons have not been replaced.

The Associated Press’ Don Thompson has more on the issue. Here’s a clip:

Federal judges required the state to reduce the headcount in the state’s 34 main adult prisons more than officials wished, according to the revised long-term plan Brown’s administration released Wednesday at the insistence of state lawmakers.

That led to more expensive private prison beds in California and other states and ended plans to close a dilapidated state lockup as the state scrambled to maintain enough beds, according to the new plan.

But the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation now houses about 35,000 fewer inmates than it did at its peak in 2006, leading liberal and conservative advocacy groups and a state lawmaker to question why the savings never materialized.

“The money’s going up, and the population’s going down,” said Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who heads the Senate Public Safety Committee and the budget committee that oversees corrections spending. “When do you start seeing the long-term savings?”

The department says its budget would have been $1.3 billion higher this year without the changes the state has made in the last four years.

The revised plan says the current level of spending is needed to hold the inmate headcount below the level set by federal judges. Brown’s budget includes more than $120 million in stop-gap population control measures, including fixing up the rundown California Rehabilitation Center at Norco and keeping 4,900 inmates in private lockups past this year’s legislative deadline. The revised corrections plan also relies in part on space for nearly 2,400 inmates in three new cell houses built at existing prisons.

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